Hamlet: After Act 1 and 2(English 30)

Major Response
(30-1)”I know not seems.” In I, ii, 76, Hamlet claims that his grief is real, not just a show. Make a chart of all the occasions in Act 1 and 2 when there is a difference between the way a character seems to be and the way he or she really is. Create your summary with the following headings:

  • The Character
  • The Situation
  • The Appearance
  • The Reality
  • The Reason for Hiding the Truth

Fill in your ideas about the characters’ behaviour and compare your summary with those of other students.

(30-2)Consider whether or not you think Polonius is a good father. Explain which of his actions were right and which were wrong. Create your own description of a good father. Write a letter to Polonius offering him advice about ways he could become a better parent.

Act 1&2 Considerations:

  1. Why did Marcellus and Bernardo ask Horatio to join them during their watch? What character traits does Horatio possess that would suggest they were right in asking him to join them?
  2. Imagine you were a talk show host, interviewing the newly crowned Claudius, King of Denmark. In a series of questions and answers, review the information provided in I,ii.
  3. Describe the Hamlet revealed in I,ii.
  4. Imagine you are an advice columnist and have received a question that deals with Laertes’ or Ophelia’s situation. Write the question and the response using exact phrases from Acts 1
  5. Write a diary entry in which Ophelia or Laertes recounts some of the advice she or he has received and how she or he feels about the advice.
  6. In 1594, Thomas Nashe speculated why the devil often appeared in the likeliness of a parent or relative: “No other reason can be given of it but this, that in those shapes which he supposeth most familiar unto us, and that we are inclined to with a natural kind of love, we will sooner hearken to him than otherwise.” Hamlet’s friends offer him reasons to not trust the apparition of his father. Summarize these reasons. How does Hamlet respond and what does this show about his character?
  7. Knowing what he knows (in I,v), could Hamlet march into the castle and accuse Claudius of Murder? What would happen if Hamlet attempted to kill Claudius immediately? Write a short scene following Act 1 in which Hamlet accuses Claudius or attempts to kill.
  8. Imagine you are Reynaldo, in Paris, and conversing with a Dane about Laertes’ activities. Write a dialogue in which you follow Polonius’ instructions.
  9. Claudius, Gertrude, and Polonius all have differing opinions on the source of Hamlet’s madness. What are they?
  10. Read the First Player’s speech carefully. Outline what it has in common in terms of characters and situations with what has transpired in the Danish court.

Hamlet: Getting Started

“We all sympathize with Hamlet, and that is understandable, because almost every one of us recognizes in the prince our own characteristics.” – Ivan Turgenev (1818-1883) Russian novelist and playwright.

Hamlet raises many questions that you may recognize from your own life. Thinking about some of these issues will make your experience of the play more interesting and rewarding. Discuss one of the following questions in your blog. Write about any ideas you find interesting or thought-provoking.

  1. We all have procrastinated about something important that we had to do, sometimes disappointing other people and often disappointing ourselves. Why do we procrastinate?
  2. Most people have purposely “played the fool” at some time. Why do people do this? If a person for some reason plays the fool or pretends to be disturbed for a long time, do you think the person eventually can become truly disturbed?
  3. Isolation and loneliness are feelings common to most people at one time or another. Sometimes external circumstances create this situation, and sometimes people deliberately withdraw from those around them. What can friends or relatives do when someone has purposely withdrawn and chosen to be alone with his or her problems?
  4. Disillusion is a common experience of growing up. We find that people in the adult world whom we once idealized are less than ideal, and that situations we considered innocent are actually corrupt. How do young people encountering the “real world” for the first time handle these discoveries?
  5. In Shakespeare’s time, insane people were regarded as sources of entertainment. What is our society’s attitude toward mental illness?
  6. What is the difference between “taking revenge” and “getting justice”?
  7. Privacy is highly valued in our society. How would you feel if you found out you were “under surveillance” at school, at your job, at home, or among friends because of some change in your behaviour?
  8. What are you launching out to believe in your life? What are you seeking to know? How well are you using your mind in discovering the truth that you are here to know?

“We feel not only the virtues, but the weaknesses of Hamlet as our own.” – Henry MacKenzie (1745-1831), Scottish author

“Hamlet is the most baffling of the great plays. It is the tragedy of a man and an action continually baffled by wisdom. The man is too wise … The task set by the dead is a simple one. All tasks are simple to the simple-minded. To the delicate and complex mind so much of life is bound up with every act that any violent act involves not only a large personal sacrifice of ideal, but a tearing up of the roots of half the order of the world.” – John Masefield (1878 – 1967), British poet laureate

“Polonius is a man bred in courts, exercised in business, stored with observations, confident in his knowledge, proud of his eloquence, and declining into dotage.” – Samuel Johnson (1709 – 1784), British essayist, biographer, and developer of the first English dictionary

“It has been stated that Hamlet is the only one of Shakespeare’s characters who could have written the plays of his creator.” – Betty Bealey (1913 -2008)

“Hamlet again is an example of the removed thinker who is cut off – better who has cut himself off – from human affairs, from life. Who ever thinks of Hamlet as possessing a body? Hamlet is pure mind, a dynamo of thought whirring in the void. He never stopped to put his hand in the garbage can. He is Prince of Idleness, an addict of thought and futile speculation.” – Henry Miller (1891 – 1980), American novelist

“Hamlet! Hamlet! When I think of his moving wild speech, in which resounds the groaning of the whole numbed universe, there breaks from my soul not one reproach, not one sigh … That soul is then so utterly oppressed by woe that it fears to grasp the woe entire, lest it lacerate itself.” – Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821 – 1881), Russian novelist

“Hamlet’s will … is paralyzed. He seeks to move in one direction and is hauled in another. One moment he sinks into the abyss. The next, he rises above the clouds. His feet seek the ground, but find only air….” – Stephen Leacock (1869 – 1944) Canadian author and humorist

“Hamlet is loathsome and repugnant. The fact that he is eloquent has nothing to do with him being obnoxious. He’s an aging playboy. The only time he gets animated is when he bosses around the players, telling them how to do their business.” – Charles Marowitz (b. 1934), American director, playwright, and critic

“Despite the initial view we get of Hamlet’s abhorrence of deception, he tries to dupe everyone else in the play.” – Michael M. Cohen (b. 1943), British Shakespeare critic

“This is the story of a man who could not make up his mind.” – Sir Laurence Olivier (1907 – 1989), British actor/director

“Hamlet is like a sponge. If he is not played in a stylized or antiquated manner, he immediately soaks up the entire contemporary scene unto himself. It is the most unique of all plays that have ever been written, because of its porosity.” – Jan Kott (1914 – 2001), Polish political activist, critic and theoretician of the theatre

“Shakespeare wrote of Hamlet as if Hamlet he were; and having, in the first instance, imagined his hero excited to partial insanity by the disclosures of the ghost – he (the poet) felt that it was natural he should be impelled to exaggerate the insanity.” – Edgar Allan Poe (1809 – 1849), American poet, short story writer, and novelist

“Hamlet, this tragedy of maniacs. this Royal Bedlam, in which every character is either crazy or criminal, in which feigned madness is added to real madness and in which the grave itself furnishes the stage with the skull of a fool ….” – François René de Chateaubriand (1768 – 1848), French poet and essayist

“Character … is destiny. But not the whole of our destiny. Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, was speculative and irresolute, and we have a great tragedy in consequence. But if his father had lived to a good old age, and his uncle had died an early death, we can conceive Hamlet’s having married Ophelia, and got through life with a reputation of sanity, notwithstanding many soliloquies, and some moody sarcasms toward the fair daughter of Polonius, to say nothing of the frankest incivility to his father-in-law.” – George Eliot (1819 – 1880), British novelist

“The most maligned man in history, one whose memory I propose not only to defend but to extol, is the man who complained that Hamlet was a boring play full of quotations, thereby proving the soundness of his literary instinct. Honour to this anonymous critic, whose sensitive though unlettered brain. stunned into apathy as one well-known phrase after another came booming accross the footlights ….” – Dame Ethel Smyth (1958 – 1944), English composer and a leader of the women’s suffrage movement

“Hamlet is a great story. It’s got some great things in it. I mean there’s something like eight violent deaths, there’s murder, there’s adultery, there’s a ghost, a madwoman, poisoning, revenge, sword fights. It’s a pretty good story.” – Mel Gibson, American actor

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Sources:
Hamlet Etext
Hamlet_eText

Hamlet Study Guide
Hamlet_eNotes

Honour and Certainty?

Hint: consider the focus questions for this course.

30-1

“Rightly to be great
Is not to stir without great argument,
But greatly to find quarrel in a straw
When honour’s at the stake.” (Act 4 Scene 4, from Hamlet’s “How all occasions do inform against me” soliloquy)

Discuss the ideas developed by William Shakespeare in Hamlet about the ways in which individuals struggle to restore honour and certainty.

In your planning and writing, consider the following instructions:
• Carefully consider your controlling idea(thesis) and how you will create a strong unifying effect in your response.
• As you develop your ideas, support them with appropriate, relevant, and meaningful examples.
• Organize your discussion so that your ideas are clearly and effectively presented.
Grapple with the intricacies of the human condition and the fundamentals of human existence, quibble about ideas related to certainty(vs doubt) and honour(vs character).

30-2
Write a short story about a character who has lost a close family member and seeks revenge but is unable to because of some sort of doubt.

In your planning and writing, consider the following instructions:
• Carefully consider your setting, characters, and main conflict.
• Add more conflict when things appear too easily solved, but don’t solve the main conflict.
• Have your character change how they feel about the idea of revenge they held early in your story.
• End your story with tragedy.
• Connect to the ideas developed by William Shakespeare in Hamlet and your own ideas and experiences.

30-4
Reflect on a moment when you received some unexpected news and thought, “This news will change my life?” As you think back, to what extent did it change your life?

In your planning and writing, consider the following instructions:
• Carefully consider how you will create a strong unifying effect in your response.
• As you develop your ideas, support them with appropriate, relevant, and meaningful examples.
• Organize your discussion so that your ideas are clearly and effectively presented.
• Connect to your own interests, experiences, values ideas. Share personal anecdotes.

English 30: Blake’s Romanticism

D.C.Williams (1899-1983) said that Blake was a romantic with a critical view on the world, he maintained that Blake’s Songs of Innocence were made as a view of an ideal, somewhat Utopian view whereas he used the Songs of Experience in order to show the suffering and loss posed by the nature of society and the world of his time. wikipedia: William Blake

Read several poems from Blake’s, Songs of Innocence and Experience.

In particular pay attention to the 2 poems titled, The Chimney Sweeper.

What idea(s) does Blake suggest to us about The Human Condition – In Search of Self?

Masks are Metaphors

Grandfather would prowl through the living room as though seeking a place of rest and not finding it, would stare fixedly without speaking, and would then descend the basement steps to the rocking chair which sat beside the furnace. — Margaret Laurence, “Mask of the Bear”(139)

… not selfishly–or not always selfishly, we are in search of our identity, the identity of our human condition.
– Malcolm Ross & John Stevens

The most profound discovery that we can make is our discovery of self. Our identity rests in the kind of people we are. To understand who we are and to develop fully as human beings, we must explore the nature of our humanness and the purpose of our lives. Who and what are we? What are the common human qualities and ideals we hold? What roles do other people (e.g., friends, family) play in our lives? What brings us joy, inspiration, and fulfillment? What doubts and fears do we have? By examining our lives and searching for answers to these and other questions, we can find meaning and fulfillment as human beings.

The life which is unexamined is not worth living.
– Plato

Read closely Margaret Laurence’s, “The Mask of the Bear.”

As the title suggests, masks are a significant literary device in the development of character in this story.

30-1 Write a five paragraph essay in which you discuss the ideas suggested by Laurence about the relationship between masks and the search for identity.

30-2 Write a five paragraph essay about masks. Research masks, psychological and cultural. How are masks significant in your life in 2009?

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The Lottery Writing Assignments

Shirley Jackson regarding the letters she received after publishing The Lottery

Curiously, there are three main themes which dominate the letters of that first summer–three themes which might be identified as bewilderment, speculation, and plain old-fashioned abuse. In the years since then, during which the story has been anthologized, dramatized, televised, and even–in one completely mystifying transformation–made into a ballet, the tenor of letters I receive has changed. I am addressed more politely, as a rule, and the letters largely confine themselves to questions like what does this story mean? The general tone of the early letters, however, was a kind of wide-eyed, shocked innocence. People at first were not so much concerned with what the story meant; what they wanted to know was where these lotteries were held, and whether they could go there and watch.

Assignment 1
Work with a partner to complete task A and B.
Task A. Imagine you live in 1948 have just read The Lottery (originally published in The New Yorker, June 28, 1948).

Write a letter to Shirley Jackson.

Task B. Imagine you are Shirley Jackson and you have just read a letter from your audience in response to “The Lottery” during the summer of 1948.

Write a letter in response to that letter.

Assignment 2
Write a post examining the cause and function of violence in your life in 2009.

  • 30-2: select appropriate detail from your personal experience to include in your analysis
  • 30-1: select appropriate detail (image–
    >symbol–>archetype) from The Lottery to include in your analysis

English 30 Poetry Assignment

Respond to each of the following in a well-considered post in your blog.
Limit your selection of detail to a separate poem for each response.

  1. Explain how image and symbol reinforce theme in a poem.
  2. Explain how facts about a writer’s life are relevant to your understanding of a poem.
  3. Explain how a poem can reflect a poet’s personal psychology.
  4. Explain how your own experiences affect your interpretation of a poem.

Trackback each post here.